Teachertudes.

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Another blog request has rolled into the email inbox.

Counting this one, I’m up to at least two (could be more, but I doubt it).

A loyal reader (and anyone who wades through more than one of these blogs has to be considered loyal) has asked how to keep great new teachers positive and free from the negative tainting of veteran teachers?

Let’s be honest.

Tainting is their word, not mine (don’t ask me why, but it just seems wrong).

And if I knew the answer to this dilemma (or riddle) I wouldn’t be posting it for free on a blog.

Can anyone say book deal?  This is America, so I might as well make a little money off other school administrators’ problems (have you ever noticed we all have the same 10 problems?).

But I don’t really want to write(?) a book for two reasons.

One, nobody has asked (surprise, surprise) and two, because it would be an insult to everyone who actually knows how to use an adverb.Attitude is a Choice.  Choose Wisely.

Since a book deal doesn’t seem imminent (and by imminent I mean ever), I’m going to throw my 2 cents in for free just this once (this is blog #450 so once comes relatively often).

See if you recognize this situation.

New teacher is hired.  New teacher is excited.  New teacher arrives at school early and stays late.  New teacher is upbeat and positive.

New teacher’s room is next door to a teacher who’s not quite as excited, arrives right on time and leaves the second they can, and can’t be considered either upbeat nor positive.

Plus new teacher makes the rookie mistake of eating lunch in the lounge (Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!).

What happens next?

New teacher gets less excited, is told he or she doesn’t have to arrive early and stay late, and gets less and less positive.

If it’s happened once, it’s happened 8.73456 billion times (guesstimate, but I’m close).

What should an administrator do?

Actually, I’m hoping someone will tell me (after all I’m not just here to babble… I’m also here to learn).

My suggestion, until someone smartens me up, is proximity and reward.

Separate your good staff from bad.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s worth a try.

If an upbeat teacher (not necessarily new) is drug down by a less than upbeat teacher (not necessarily old or veteran) there’s plenty of blame to go around.

And some of this blame should land directly on the administration’s desk.

A teaching staff has something in common with real estate:  location, location, location.

While you cant’ control attitudes, you can control where these attitudes go to thrive or die.

There’s no exact science here, it’s mostly trial and error (Welcome to Education).

Put great attitudes by bad attitudes.  Put great attitudes by great attitudes.  Mix them up.  Move them around.  Draw names out of a hat.  Try anything (kids are worth it).

Teachers (and administrators) are hired to work in a school district.  They aren’t hired to work in a particular building or specific room.

Nothing says one teacher gets to stay in the same classroom for 40 years (it’s not “theirs”… it’s the kids’).

Call the moving van (or custodian) and rearrange your attitudes.

Don’t let one part of your staff dictate the mood of a building.

Another thing worth trying is rewards.

Overwhelm your positive staff members.

Give them the nicest room, more technology, cool erasers, good parking, candy, or something as simple as a compliment.

Everyone wants to be recognized as being good at their jobs.  And nothing improves attitudes like free stuff.

This blog could have been titled Administratortudes, Principaltudes, or Pretty Much Any Peopletudes.

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19 Responses to “Teachertudes.”


  1. Lyn Hilt
    on Dec 1st, 2010
    @ 6:21 pm

    Thanks….just thanks.
    I’ve done these things. And I’ve seen the results in my visibly-changed, re-energized new teachers after they’re separated from a hallway where negativity is the norm.
    If anyone ever pulls the “playing favorites” cards, I’ll simply reference this post.
    :)


  2. Karen
    on Dec 1st, 2010
    @ 6:28 pm

    Go to the new teacher. Have a direct conversation. Tell them who will help them and who will not. Then make a bet , 25 cents each will do, and if you are right then you win the bet. If not the teacher wins the bet.
    Everyone knows who the negative ones are. Tell the positive ones not to let the negative ones get hold of the new ones. They’ll do it. It works.


  3. Pernille ripp
    on Dec 1st, 2010
    @ 6:43 pm

    I do appreciate much in this post, especially the moving around of teachers to encourage better flow of positivity. However, being one of those on the receiving end of “extras” from the principal, I can tell you how damaging it can be. While anyone appreciates being given extra stuff as a reward, other staff members might end up ostracizing that new teacher. So please, before any principal decides to dole rewards out, check with the receiving teacher first. I would personally rather have good work relationships with all rather than be viewed as a favorite.


  4. Tom
    on Dec 1st, 2010
    @ 6:47 pm

    I have been working in a multi-age classroom for 15 years now with a partner teacher. We were encouraged way back then to try something new (or old one room schoolhouse), so we took down the wall between the two classrooms that we shared and made a gigantic class with grades 3-4-5; our parents and students love it. However, times have changed, as have administrations, and now the state test is almighty. With all that background for your reading pleasure, now to my questions or thoughts.
    I must be delusional, because it is not the teachers (though we have plenty that fit the descriptions in your post to a ‘T’), but the administration and D.O. that now provide the tainting and the negative attitudes.
    At conferences, in multi-school meetings, and on-line connections lead me to believe that I am not alone in my point of view.
    So, FINALLY to my question: What are teachers to do when they are the enthusiastic ones and the administrators are the negative ones?
    This post from John Spencer’s blog helps to explain how many teachers feel:
    http://www.johntspencer.com/2010/11/school-choice.html?showComment=1291254403723_AIe9_BG06d53H0GkpBC4Oycdvxgm3eUSUeLa950AZnWMUjuYcfefNsnCRbfib856n0ZQ2wXJDulShT70nrdMSMdf_X_BrY1BG6y2YiP3GjeYpUdjm8rJB3rpFsrjBYPxYdlZJBTH3VZT57iDNsgI-LJIjONs66BE2YYbHqzBoUl3SaXtbR6LFveqmnLl7ZIbUKHVuCnpwNbu93W1KTL0UZ4KhP0exjxvf8FWZP_RTgQoM8MOflO4WZF3vUCOn0FEaqzSDNc6HaxOt99xODlOBnHTeBZeFeC56xTKJ1e8CYnGaqUN5qdxLu2aDrIK_onECtTQJT57NhfLFCFt-CgDDQHFnTpT3Bp0AhPR-KBIbnH0E4qSaWu56gnMzhiOFnXAWkRTbmbXYUwmg5v8msmALdKnYJvx2RfSIofjkObThqJFXhILnc0c_SdFVRGrATqU22LDP80Dj9wZ40feTXsMTu47JmD2HRBv1BADlRgFcVByEV0eBKY4vjNiJXCyIYobRap1vdP9lO3ZSGda0i7teRDEg9-LwhI36uaZGa0FBaU0pltx-OyfKs9Bcas99qub368IRluxK8Pjw_Pn6WvTGusVs14LTGF2XC_tssREn-ykJ9yap5dCntVCrWqAp6dfnSCQDubMUHiZrNxEM3kW4VR8oixowV5PFqdCK-Whs5__l6r3_Ll5XY-Mc-OpY1hqUEPdpXv6ouduxllm_TCcRX3uPB7CRiEvlJIEq8d6swObFcgNH8KM3HNhsw4QZrl7LRp1pQo6uW1YahSrAijrsnh_GNXLCDvfqA#c7942291624793258743


  5. Audrey Noonan
    on Dec 1st, 2010
    @ 7:32 pm

    I’m in school to become a teacher, and I have heard both sides of the eating in the teachers lounge thing. My professors say to avoid it at all costs, but when they have alumni come back and talk to us, they say to make sure to socialize with others in your building by being friendly, polite, and eating in the teacher’s lounge. What do you think?

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Audrey Noonan, My first principal gave me the advice to stay out… which I’ve tried to follow.

    Some people really enjoy their time in the lounge, so I think this is a decision each individual must make… but you will quickly realize if it’s a good atmosphere or not.


  6. Olwyn Hughes
    on Dec 1st, 2010
    @ 7:43 pm

    I think I would be scared to walk into a teacher’s lounge in the USA. This is the fifth or so time I have heard that one should never eat there if one wants to continue feeling positive and liking one’s job. Crazy. I eat in the staffroom every day and have a great time. The trick is to sit with the positive ones not the negative ones.

    I am not sure that staying later and working longer makes an energetic teacher a better teacher. What should be rewarded is not the amount of time being put in but the quality of the teaching being done. Teachers who are keen to keep learning, who are perfecting their craft and working on being the best that they can be need to be given credit where credit is due. Too often this doesn’t happen. But, boy, does it feel great when it does!

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Olwyn Hughes, A lounge can be happy… but it can also be the opposite.


  7. P
    on Dec 1st, 2010
    @ 8:50 pm

    Imagine a new teacher, comes early, stays late, works hard. Imagine that the teacher next door with 15+ years experience, is excited by the enthusiasm next door and they eagerly partner up for interventions and new tactics to conquer material that is clearly hard for their students

    Imagine the principal at said school walking into new teacher’s classroom one afternoon mid-year to say, “I notice you stay late a lot. You need to stop, you aren’t getting any better at this and wasting your time,” and walks out.

    Imagine that teacher, who will never, ever be a classroom teacher again.

    Wishing you were my first principal….


  8. Ryan
    on Dec 2nd, 2010
    @ 5:21 am

    An interesting topic and post and one that I’d like to add a suggestion and share why I don’t eat in the lounge.

    Has any admin/ teacher leader made a distinction between legitimate teacher concerns, and ones that are harmful to the school atmosphere? Bambi Betts once argued that once a school community makes a decision, no one that was part of making that decision should be allowed to criticize it. To me, this makes sense, though I see a loophole for those that missed the meeting. Is there no way to self-monitor?

    I feel like a lot of the lounge cynicism happens when venting gets out of control. Teaching can be stressful and sometimes it’s useful to get a second opinion about how to respond or adjust — or just venting can be useful. But would it be OK to encourage teachers to find a “vent” partner or mentor so that they can hold these conversations in private rather than in public?

    As for me, I never go to the staff lounge because, first, it’s far away (another location strategy?). Second, I spend the entire day interacting with people. I need some time to be with my own thoughts at lunch. Finally, who has time during lunch to get to a teaching lounge? Between wrapping up a class and preparing for the afternoon class, I find I have as many as ten minutes to eat lunch…

    Interesting post.
    Ryan


  9. Melanie
    on Dec 2nd, 2010
    @ 5:36 am

    I would also argue that the administration has a huge impact on the positivity or negativity of the staff. The people being led will reflect the actions of the leader. If I am not inspired by my leader, I become an okay teacher. If I am inspired by my leader, I become a great teacher. I am intrinsically motivated which means I will not be the less than okay teacher, but sometimes it’s hard to be motivated inside when everything outside your classroom is designed to demotivate you from actually teaching.


  10. Tracey
    on Dec 2nd, 2010
    @ 7:06 am

    YOU SAID, “Give them the nicest room, more technology, cool erasers, good parking, candy, or something as simple as a compliment.” BOY I WISH I WORKED FOR YOU!

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Tracey, I bet the candy got you.


  11. Alicia Kessler
    on Dec 2nd, 2010
    @ 8:33 am

    If the elders or the alphas in the building are negative by default (all areas of their life) it will be tough if the positive ones also happen to be timid.

    In 14 years of being a tech coordinator in three different districts I have eaten in the lounge 10 times, maybe. Tech people don’t want to solve your home tech problems while eating. I know, we are rude that way.

    The other reason; at the elementary schools the conversation so frequently turned to child-birth horror stories and at the high school big ten sports. Both of which are avoidable if you’re careful.

    I walk into the lounge these days to warm up my food and make it my goal to derail the conversation with some off kilter innuendo that the cool teachers laugh at and the seasonal sweater wearers don’t get. Ever.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Alicia Kessler, “Seasonal Sweater Wearers”…

    I wish I’d thought of this.


  12. Rene Gaudreau
    on Dec 2nd, 2010
    @ 8:35 am

    There’s a great book by Anthony Muhammad called transforming school culture that talks about this dynamic. http://www.solution-tree.com/Public/Media.aspx?node=byauthor&parent=&ShowDetail=true&ProductID=DVF022


  13. Pat
    on Dec 2nd, 2010
    @ 12:04 pm

    Sometimes the location has to end up being another school too. I was at one school for 11 years and thought I would end up retiring there. But after going to a new school closer to home (10 min. drive instead of 60 min. ), I was so surprised how stale I had gotten at my old school. Suddenly I was filled with new energy, new ideas, new people, new classroom, new everything! I think it actually made me a better teacher. I’m not saying that everyone should leave their school though. I’m saying that maybe we need to look hard at ourselves and our attitudes. Maybe we don’t even realize we have a bad attitude!

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Pat, I think that would go for a lot of us (not realizing our attitude).

    Great comment.


  14. Marriedin79
    on Dec 31st, 2010
    @ 9:31 pm

    Why do I eat in the lounge? I like having a conversation with other adults as opposed to the six-year-old kids that I spend the rest of the day with.

    I try to listen with an open mind to what the rest of them are saying. I don’t let myself get drawn into the drama. Instead, I have the opportunity to hear what others are thinking and to say to myself (when necessary), “Who, Nellie (not my real name, by the way), we’re not going there!”

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